Hiking in Dillon and Silverthorne
Old Dillon Reservoir (1.5 miles/ vertical 150 ft.)
While most visitors focus on prominent Dillon Reservoir, nearby is a small but charming body of water, which is the goal of this short, easy hike. Not only is the slightly elevated locale of Old Dillon Reservoir a scenic one, but the trail is lined with fragrant wild roses in late June and into July. The gentle trail climbs only 140 feet in three quarters of a mile to offer a view of Dillon Reservoir below as well as the many mountains beyond. The goal is a tranquil pond reflecting massive Buffalo Mountain. Wildflower Alert: A bounty of fragrant wild roses leads to pretty views of Dillon Reservoir and a serene scenic pond.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and turn left onto Dillon Dam Road (CO Rd 7) and the Old Dillon Reservoir parking will be on the right several miles down (there are no roads to take you directly to the reservoir). On the other side of the road is Lake Dillon, so take a walk over there to enjoy the views of the lake.
Tenderfoot Mountain (2.5 miles/ vertical minimal)
Tenderfoot Mountain Trail offers wonderful views of Dillon Reservoir and the peaks of Tenmile Range beyond a flowery hillside. Thanks to a south-facing slope, this easygoing hike is especially fine on early season mornings and evenings; traversing cool aspen copses, sagebrush-studded open hillsides, and lodgepole pine stands, this one-and-a-quarter-mile trail heads up at a fairly steady pace. Wildflowers change with alternating habitats throughout the trail. A bench is located at the end of the hike for enjoying marvelous views of the water, flowers, and peaks. Wildflower Alert: This south-facing lake view trail brings on wildflowers early in the season.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon, then turn left onto the Roberts Tunnel Access Road. Take the first left hand turn from here to find the trailhead, enjoy the wildflowers and other flora while you make your way to fantastic views of Lake Dillon.
Dillon Peninsula (5.3 miles/ 225 ft.)
The Dillon Reservoir Recreation Area offers easy hiking opportunities; the mostly flat gated dirt road to the West Portal of the Roberts Tunnel is hikable year-round while the forested Meadow Loop and Ridge Trails can sometimes be obscured by snow. Various combinations of the two trails and road provide shorter or longer walks all with fantastic views of Dillon Reservoir, Dillon, the Gore Range, and the Tenmile Range. Interpretive signs created by fourth and fifth graders at Dillon Valley Elementary School add insight into the area and its inhabitants, both wild and human. The Dillon Nature Preserve contains two trails but is first and foremost a nature preserve. Keep your eyes open for fox, pine squirrels, deer, red-tailed hawks, and ospreys. Being lower than many trails in central Summit County, the snow melts sooner and the flowers bloom earlier here.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon. There is a left turn off to a parking area across from Dillon Cemetery Road (CO Rd 98) to get you to the trail head, this is also a trail head for the bike path around Lake Dillon.
Salt Lick Trail (4 miles/ vertical 650 ft.)
The cool days of autumn are best for enjoying the spectacular aspen and scenery of this trail. A golden carpet of Aspen leaves covered the trail during our recent fall outing here. Lily Pad Lake is about a half mile from this point so if you continue on you will add about one mile to your hike. Locals report occasional Moose sightings here so stay alert and keep that camera within reach! This hike is absolutely gorgeous in the fall with the changing of the leaves.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and connect with route 9 (Highway 6 turns into route 9) north to the Wildernest Road (across from Wendy’s) turn left onto Wildernest and continue for .9 miles and turn left on to a dirt road that is located on a sharp curve just as you pass the Wildernest Center (Conoco station). Park here and follow the road to the trailhead. Follow the trail for about 15 minutes until you see a log bridge on your left that crosses Salt Lick Creek. Cross the bridge and continue up the path past beaver ponds and open meadows and a sign that marks the entrance to the Eagles Nest Wilderness area. If you miss the first bridge, there is another a couple dozen yards ahead – you can cross here.
Oro Grande Trail (6.5 miles/ vertical minimal)
This is a gentle, easy hike for the whole family as there is no significant elevation gain as the trail gently undulates up and down while providing outstanding views of the Ten Mile Range across the valley from Lake Dillon. This is a great winter hike for snowshoes and also an excellent site for fall Aspen viewing in autumn. It is probably best avoided on warm summer days when the southern exposure and relatively low elevation (under 9500') can make for some discomfort. The traffic on Route 6 can also be something of an annoyance to those seeking more isolation but the vistas make it most rewarding.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon, turn right onto Dillon Cemetery Rd. (CO Rd 98) and then take first right (about ¼ mile down and follow that to the parking area for the trailhead.
Ptarmigan Peak (12 miles/ vertical 3407 ft.)
The Ptarmigan Trail climbs steadily through various ecosystems including sagebrush meadow, lodgepole pine, aspen, spruce-fir, and alpine tundra —the land above the trees. While thick forest envelops the trail the first 4 miles, a few open spaces provide great views of the Gore Range or the lower Blue River valley. As you hike above tree line, keep your eyes open on the north ridge for the resident elk herd. The long hike is rewarded by beautiful vistas from the top, including four 14,000-foot peaks, much of the craggy Gore Range, the Tenmile Range, and Dillon Reservoir. This is hunting area so be wary of hunters. There are shorter versions of this trail, so don’t feel the need to hike to the top.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 back towards Dillon and connect with route 9 (Highway 6 turns into route 9). Head north on Highway 9 and turn right onto Rainbow Drive (by Wendy’s). Then take your first right turn onto Tanglewood Ln. Follow this and turn right onto Ptarmigan Trail, continue on Ptarmigan Trail (it becomes a dirt road) and trailhead parking will be on the right about 1 mile down the road. The trailhead will take you on the dirt road and follow this to the mountain. The trailhead is across from the parking lot.
Mesa Cortina (15 miles/ 2532 ft.)
This 14.9-mile hike traverses the Gore Range over Red-Buffalo Pass. Along the way, you can see almost everything that is special about the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Flower-filled meadows, views of craggy peaks and spires, marshes, avalanche paths, old graves, a set of waterfalls, and coniferous forests provide for a continuous change of scenery and feeling of remoteness. Most of the trail follows the route originally pro- posed for Interstate 70. The hike can be done as a long day hike, backpack, or separate hikes. Enjoy the beauty of the Gore Range and Eagles Nest Wilderness!
A shorter option is available; a (5.2 miles/ vertical 400 ft.) milder hike starts from the trailhead. A 20 or 25 minute walk brings you to a sign marking the entrance to the Eagles Nest Wilderness. Soon, you begin the most difficult part of the hike by ascending a series of switchbacks through the forest. Here you will enjoy opportunities for views of Lake Dillon off to the south and glimpses of the snow capped Williams Fork Mountains to the northeast, just simply make a loop and turn back to make this hike shorter.
To get here from Keystone: Take Highway 6 towards Dillon to connect with Colorado 9 (Highway 6 turns into Route 9). Take Rt. 9 north and turn left onto Wildernest Road at the traffic light – A Wendy’s is located on the right and a 7-11 store on your left. As you start up the mountain Wildernest Road becomes Ryan Gulch Road. Look for Buffalo Drive on your right and turn right here. Buffalo Drive dead ends at Buffalo Mountain Drive and you will turn right here. Take the next left, Lakeview Drive, which is soon intersected by Aspen Drive. Turn left onto Aspen Drive and the parking lot for the trailhead will be on your right.